Reclaiming Buddhism and Buddhist Heritage – Whose Responsibility?


When we think of the revolution and counterrevolution in India, it happened on many levels. There have been attempts in the past which ran up to the modern times to co-opt the Buddha and Buddhism into the Brahminical fold. If we study the major seats of Hindu orthodoxy today were the erstwhile flourishing centers of Buddhism.

The counterrevolution did not only tried to kill the ideas or co-opt them in such a way that it would blend with the heinous poisonous agenda of Brahminism, but also symbols, rituals, and practices were co-opted in the process of counterrevolution. The counterrevolution against Buddha’s revolution for the new equal society reached its pinnacle when the Buddha himself was co-opted in the Brahminical fold.

So when we talk about the battle of reclamation of human personality, we have to talk about the reclamation of culture, reclamation of language, reclamation of symbols, reclamation of the Buddhist practices, and most important reclamation of the history. There is a theft of Buddhist history in India. The Buddhism gets just a page or so in the educational books in India, though it was the dominant culture and dominant religion of India for many hundred years.

The material culture of Buddhism is in the forms of 1000s of caves throughout India. I was in Kanchi a few years back where I personally witnessed the Buddhas on the walls of the temple, indicating clearly that the old Buddhist temple was destroyed and the material was used to build the new Brahminical temple. Same is true about many places, including Ayodhya, the site of dispute in the modern India. Throughout India, attempts were made to convert Buddhist sites into Brahminical Hindu sites. Most of the Buddhist caves are neglected and they are not kept well. India is completely neglecting its Buddhist heritage is clear if one visits any site related to Buddhism.

Whose responsibility is it to preserve Buddhist Heritage? Buddhists or Governments or NGOs?

Most of the languages in India are the gifts of the Buddhist scholars, in fact, the popular literary flavour was brought into community life by the Buddhists. Unlike the Brahmins who were sectarian and rigid, the Buddhists were universal and always concerned about reaching to the last person in the community because their Dhamma taught them to go beyond communal boundaries. The popular literature was the product of the Buddhists, not just highly philosophical work and deep thinking related to the nature of existence, but also dramas, poetry, the books of languages, mathematics, and beauty and art.

In fact, the Buddhists came up with an idea of great universities like Taxila (in the present day Pakistan) and Nalanda, the tradition that continued to get reflected in the universities like Vikramshila. These centers of learning though they were Buddhists went beyond teaching just Buddhism, but also science and mathematics. India lost many manuscripts of the great works that the Buddhists created which were back to India through the process of re-translation from the Tibetan and Chinese languages. The Buddhists must reclaim the literature, language, art, beauty, and science lost to the antiquity. It is important.

Read -  [PDF] Dr Ambedkar Books in Punjabi

Lastly, but the most important for the Buddhists in India, is to reclaim the Buddha and Buddhism itself by discerning Buddhism that has been distorted, co-opted, and corrupted by the onslaught of the Brahminical Hinduism. There are many Buddhist practices which have been just folded into so-called Hinduism. They need to be recovered and restored. For example, what is now know as “Bhagva” was one of epithets of the Buddha.

The Buddha was called Bhagva and the symbol for Buddhist renunciation or the for the communities of the Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis was the “Bhagva” color, but that color is also co-opted by the fundamentalists Hindu terror organisation. The Buddhists should not involve into any politics over colors and symbols, but it is essential to put historical origin in the perspective of the history in India is a political process and the dominants try to claim their power based on the manufactured history. The bigger question is when such a great material civilisation was created in India, who really created all this?

There must be people who might have done it. They were the Nagas who did. Everywhere one goes in the Buddhist material history, the totem of Nagas is dominant. The Nagas were the protector of the Buddhists like the great Naga who protected the Buddha in the Buddha Gaya, whose name was, Mucchalind Naga. The people who protected Buddhism were called the Nagas. To name just a few among them like, Nagasena (the warrior among the Nagas), Nagarjuna (Naga who was born under the Arjuna Tree), Dignaga, and so on. The Buddha was himself was called Mahanaga (the greatest among the Nagas) and when Babasaheb embraced Buddhism, he embraced it in Nagpur (the city of the Nagas).

I would not like to give universal Buddhism an ethnic color by saying that the Nagas were the synonyms of the Buddhists, but the history bears witness to the fact that most of the backward classes, including the modern day Mahars had the suffix of Nag (K), such as Siddhanak, Amrutnak (great Mahar warrior) indicating their Nag origin. The word Mahar is just 400 years old. Who were they and who were the other communities among the so-called untouchables before they were forced to live the life of the degradation and humiliation?

They were the Nagas and the Buddhists who gave India and the world the finest teachings and sublime beauty of the Buddha!

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  1. 1
    Bharat S Satyarthy

    Great on Nags ..,….king Sudershan nag was the ruler of kushinagar when Buddha attained Magapatinirvan . Indraprashtha was a nag who ruled from the present day Delhi.
    There is a fire place HUGE KUND in Mainpuri Distt up 205265 where Yudhishtra killed 1000s of nagas and put into that kind ……global college of law

  2. 2
    Maithreya Bali

    Completely endorse the idea of reclaiming Buddha and Buddhism. In fact, I feel that Buddhism was the ‘enlightenment movement’ that emerged in Indian subcontinent. It was premature for Indian and the world that it was run over by Brahminical revivalism and the Semitic hordes from the West. Kerala and Tamilnadu had a rich tradition of Buddhism. But most of our generation hardly knew about. It was ‘de-emphasied’ in our history textbooks and those who destroyed Buddhism from our place were glorified. Eg the likes of Shankaracharya.

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